What’s New and Hot? Vintage Markets in Chicago

Randolph Street Market ChicagoHigh-end antique shows are in trouble, especially the smaller-sized charity shows. Yet vintage urban markets, like vintage markets in Chicago,  are booming, and breathing new life into the business. Here’s why.

1. High booth rent isn’t necessary today, dealers don’t want or need to pay it.

2. The focus has turned to wearable and decorative items. Collectors looking for that specific cookie jar or flow blue are in the minority.

3. Urban markets are social and fun, no stuffy chamber music is playing here.

4. Urban Markets are focused on upscaling, recycling and green and so are a lot of their customers.

5. $100.00 and under items are hot right now and as a dealer, if that’s what you are selling the most of, you can’t afford the booth rent in many high-end antiques shows.

6. The new breed of customer, in my opinion, starts in their late 20s, the urban market not only has music and social opportunities but beer and wine as well!

7. Small church and charity shows can be intimidating to new and up and coming collectors.

8. Decorators and designers are now looking at shows to find decorative household items their customers can use to show their personal style. This new breed of customer isn’t afraid to alter or restyle a piece.

9. Antique is a dirty word in this business right now, vintage is hot. It’s what everyone is after and what they think is cool, and hey it is!

10. The collector who frequents the high-end church and charity show has seen the value of the items they have purchased over the past 20 years bottom out just like many other segments of our economy.  They are being cautious and are hesitant to spend what they spent in the early to mid 1990’s.

The new vintage market provides an non-intimidating way for the beginning collector but still has all the depth needed for an experienced and seasoned vintage/antique shopper.

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5 thoughts on “What’s New and Hot? Vintage Markets in Chicago

  1. I am all for urban markets especially when it brings the twenty and thirty somethings into the mix. Let’s face it, they are GREEN, they are fun and they inspire creativity. Eddie Ross and Martha Stewart have helped these markets to grow and thrive. Investing in vintage outweighs investing in some of the new (not real) furniture and accesories that are on the market and in catalogues today. I encourage my grandchildren to search for their furnishings and accessories at these markets. I hope someday when the economy improves and they have bigger incomes, they will slip into the antiques market.

    As for high end shows being in trouble; I am not sure I agree with that. It is the middle market, brown furniture, refinished and with no provinence that is not selling now. The small charity shows are not necessarily high end. They are middle market and the promoters are not doing a very good job vetting. The real high end shows in my mind are the New York Winter Antiques Show, The Philadelphia Antiques Show, The Manchester NH Dealers Show and possibly the Washington DC Charity Show. Of course there are others, but there are lots of nice sales at these shows every year.

    Yes, booth rents have gotten too high. Sometimes it is necessary when the venue is a fancy hotel, sometimes it is just greed.
    Outdoor shows and shows in public buildings, fairgrounds and school or church buildings need not be that expensive. There are still reasonable booth rents out there such as Liberty, NC and York, PA. The Liberty show might be more in the category of a vintage market and thereby not attracting some of the so-called “better dealers”. York, PA, promoted by Butch Arion, on the other hand has become a destination show with easy access from Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington and not far from the Virginia hunt country.

    Bettianne Sweeney


  2. I’m also not sure it’s either-or. Some of the same dealers and some of the same stuff is at Vintage Markets and mid-range antique shows. Vintage markets may for some be a gateway drug to collecting, but then again they may just be a gateway drug to more expensive decorating. They’re all fun!


  3. Totally agree! The shows you mentioned are the high end shows, that 5 percent or so of this business. I think I do mean a more mid range show but in the scheme of things and to the public it’s considered high end where we in the business think the Winter Antiques Show or the Armory Show in NYC is top of the line. Brown furniture, definitely in trouble 🙂


  4. what exactly is meant by “decorative household items?” or just “decorative items?” a green-handled egg beater from the art deco period? it is useful (many of my customers at antique – yes, they still use that word – shows buy such items to use.


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